Almost exactly two years ago, on August 5th, 2011, the Coronado Police Department received an anonymous tip that Michael Lewis and his wife Lauren Taylor were operating an illegal covert daycare operation, and worse, that they were smoking weed around the children.
Acting on that tip, officers visited Lewis’ home on upscale Coronado Island, and were allowed entrance to the residence by Lewis and his wife. Satisfied that there was no secret babysitting cartel headquartered in the home, officers did discover Lewis’ personal stash of pot, for which he promptly provided a valid California doctor’s recommendation. What should have been the end of the story was just the beginning of a two-year-long nightmare for Lewis, his wife, and their two kids.
Citing the discovered marijuana as a “hazard” in their official report, officers returned three days later and took Lewis and Taylor’s children, ages 4 and 2 at the time, and placed them in the Polinsky Children’s Center – an emergency shelter supported by funds raised through the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation which provides temporary room and board for “abused, abandoned, and neglected children” in San Diego.
Even though the Center immediately determined that Lewis’ kids were “developmentally on target and there were no concerns for them (i.e., no signs of physical abuse, emotional abuse, or other abuse)”, the children were kept from their parents for a year, while Lewis and his wife claim the County repeatedly lied to the Courts, inventing tales of “abuse” and “neglect” to keep the family separated. Abducted by law enforcement on August 8th, 2011, the children were kept fostered away from their parents for 364 days, finally being returned on August 7th, 2012.
If you are waiting to hear of the allegedly awful tales of abuse in Lewis’ home, you already did. Michael Lewis is a Gulf War veteran who, during his tours overseas, was exposed to certain chemicals that now give him excruciating migraine headaches. He and his doctors discovered that medical marijuana can substantially alleviate the pressure from those migraines, allowing Lewis a more comfortable life now that he is back at home with his family. But it was his own personal stash of medicine that the Coronado Police Department and San Diego County Health & Human Services used as their crowbar to wedge two innocent parents away from their two more than innocent children.
The facts of the case are these; Michael Lewis possessed a legal amount of marijuana and provided officers with a valid doctor’s recommendation, Lewis stated on the record that his children are never exposed to the weed or its second-hand smoke, Lewis never tested positive for any drugs other than marijuana, his wife Lauren never tested positive for marijuana, nor did their kids, and by all reports the two children were “intelligent, well nourished, lived without abuse or neglect, and that the removal from their parents was significantly detrimental to them”.
Lewis and his wife now allege that officers from the Coronado Police Department, in association with members of the San Diego County Health & Human Services department are the ones guilty of neglect and abuse. They are now seeking punitive damages in a lawsuit against two Coronado police officers and seven County workers for civil rights violations, battery, false imprisonment, and negligence.
The pissed-off parents state that the County’s claims, under oath, that Lewis was a “substance abuser who forges records, a drug dealer, and a serious threat to the welfare of his children” were not only damaging, but completely fabricated. They point to the fact that Lewis’ state sanctioned doctor’s recommendation was completely ignored, the doctor never even called or questioned.
They seethe when they recall County employees testifying that if Michael’s pot use wasn’t enough of a reason to keep his kids imprisoned, that perhaps the migraines that he suffers from should be considered some form of mental disorder. Thanks for your service, soldier!
The pile of bullshit “evidence” introduced by the county to the juvenile court was matched only by the amount of potentially exculpatory evidence that they managed to get withheld from the court’s decision making process. According to Court House News: “Defendant San Diego County and defendant Joseph were informed that the children would often cry for more than an hour after they were only allowed brief and fleeting visitations with their parents and they would wake up crying for their parents at night and during naps – none of this exculpatory evidence was ever disclosed to the juvenile court. Rather, the defendants actively concealed the information from the court.”
Michael Lewis and his wife Lauren Taylor rightfully point out that had a private citizen taken their two children from them for a year, the consequences would be clear. They know their rights and cite the California Welfare Code which they say “obligates social workers to err on the side of keeping children at home with their parents so long as it is safe to do so. Government code forbids its agents to commit perjury, fabricate evidence, withhold exculpatory evidence or obtain testimony through duress”.
In a clear cut case of ideology overruling common sense, this lawsuit is another glaring example of the absolute failure of America’s war on drugs. And as usual, innocent civilians and kids become collateral damage.